“Put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires … be renewed in the spirit of your minds … put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness” (Ephesians 4:22-24 ESV).
Imagine you’re in a big house. In the house is a library – a massive room with book-lined walls. As you step through the door, you realise that there are two distinct halves to this library. The volumes covering the wall on your left are old; the ones on the right look new. Intrigued, you decide to investigate.
First, you turn to the old section. It smells musty and mouldy; the shelves that hold the books are sagging and splitting under their load. The closer you get, the worse the stench becomes; it smells as if something is rotting. Everything about this side of the room smacks of death and decay.
And yet, the person who owns the house and the library still appears to spend time here. Some of the books have covers with recent, albeit insufficient, repairs – including the ones just in front of you, on a shelf entitled, ‘Anxiety’. All the volumes here start with the question ‘What if…?’. Every conceivable worry appears to be housed here; every possible scenario of family tragedy; every tale with an unhappy ending.
Another section is labelled ‘Resentment’. It’s full of journals and diaries recording personal slights. ‘Regret’ contains numerous tomes all commencing ‘If only…’ And, oh, there are dozens of other sections! Immorality, Jealousy, Selfishness, Injustice, Pride, Greed, Envy… appalled, you turn away and look to the other side of the room.
You cross from the creaking, sinking floorboards of the old section to the intricately woven carpet of the new. There are comfortable armchairs here, a brightly burning fire, pristine shelves with immaculate books. And the subjects! Every antidote to the dire problems in the old books is found here!
All these books are about the Bible. Remember the ‘What if’ books on the old shelves? They are entirely abolished once you read this book about 1 Peter 5:7 (“Casting all your care upon Him…”), or that one about Matthew 6:34 (“Do not worry about tomorrow…”), or this one about Philippians 4:8 (“Whatever things are true… meditate on these things”), and so many more! In fact, if you practised the truth contained in these books, the old ones need never be read again!
The fresh fragrance invites you to stay permanently where you are, and you look with disgust back at the old section across the wide room. It doesn’t make any sense. Why does the owner of this house keep the old books? Why not simply burn them up in the bright fire of the new?
Do you know where you really are?
You’re in my mind. The books represent my thoughts, and I’m the one choosing – yes, choosing – what remains in the library and in which section I spend my time.
The old section is the nature I was born with. There is nothing salvageable here; it is ‘no good’ whatsoever (Romans 7:18). It was not improved when I became a Christian and won’t be improved through a lifetime of Christian living.
The new section was added when I became a Christian – when I became a ‘new creation’ in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17). God has given me an altogether-different, brand-new life through which I can live victoriously as a Christian.
The problem is that there is still the danger of investing time in my old nature – feeding it and attempting self-improvement… which only leaves me disillusioned and defeated and occupied with the part of me which is meant to be… well, ‘dead’ (Romans 6:6-11). I spend time sticking tape on the crumbling spines of old books, instead of replacing them entirely with new ones.
‘Make up’ your mind
As a Christian you have a duty to direct, and train, your mind. You must choose to inhabit the wonderful new library which is at your disposal – “Set your mind and keep focused habitually on the things above [the heavenly things], not on things that are on the earth [which have only temporal value]” (Colossians 3:2 AMP). Don’t fool yourself that you must constantly return to corrupting old haunts in your mind; rather, become familiar with the vast array of Bible truth that will guard, keep, and direct your life.
The next time you are tempted to delve into the old thought-library (whichever shelf you wish to visit), remember the stench of death that lingers there. Turn away; cross to the other side – it’s full of treasures of light and life!
“Finally, believers, whatever is true, whatever is honourable and worthy of respect, whatever is right and confirmed by God’s word, whatever is pure and wholesome, whatever is lovely and brings peace, whatever is admirable and of good repute; if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think continually on these things [centre your mind on them, and implant them in your heart]” (Philippians 4:8 AMP)